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Thursday, February 24, 2022


by Louise Wilford

Covered in red and blue graffiti, the toppled statue of British politician Edward Colston, who enslaved tens of thousands of people, stood in the city of Bristol, UK for more than 100 years before it was pulled down by angry protesters during a wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the country last summer—after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Demonstrators used rope to tug the statue from its stone plinth and their bare hands to roll it through the streets and into the murky waters of a nearby harbor as onlookers cheered. Others chanted “Black Lives Matter,” in solidarity with those across the Atlantic dealing with issues of police brutality, systemic racism and complex histories. —The Washington Post, June 4, 2121

She painted Love on a garage roof,
in throbbing streaks of purple-red, the convolutions of a colon.
Sprayed Birth inside a canal bridge arch–metallic mist of bronze and copper,
cream and jungle green—its colours glowing loud as we moved
closer. Joy on a fire-damaged caravan, in orange streaks, fading
at their edge to silver fairy-dust against a woodland midnight.
Paintings drifted off around the tow –first drafts, discarded
—or maybe gifts, or threats. A wisp of air, she moved
about the streets, unseen save for the spores that trailed behind,
hand-prints on lamp-posts, splashes on a fence, office windows
and abandoned cars. Tragedy in a bus shelter, thick brown strokes
with an uneven brush; Bliss rolled up a shutter’s sides in jolting yellow
stripes; the turquoise-blue of Hope rubbed on the bricks of an abandoned
warehouse—and Innocence, black as a crow’s wing, sprawling, smug, along
a dry-stone wall.   
On the beech-tree avenue in the park, she painted the stretch of Life,
from gold to god, each stage a different tree. Her colours startled
like a kestrel’s swoop, on bollards, awnings, road signs, multi-storey
concrete car-parks. On a crossing, she painted the white stripes shocking
pink. She filled the holes of letters with tiny dots like grains inside an hour-glass;
scrawled a Nightmare on an underpass, a Daydream on a council refuse bin;
Ambition on the tall side of a Tesco van, Destruction on the shovel of a JCB.
Peace, soft as sand, perched on picnic tables. She spread her peacock tail
so the hues that churned inside her could escape, Tenderness like a swirl
of oil on a puddle, blood-red Anger, bile-green Envy, the pewter-grey
of Misery, and the sharp vermilion ache of Fear, vinegar shiny as a magpie
feather. Shades and shadows, grit and silk and dust and grease, stirred
and shifted, blended and erased.
Until one day, she drenched with the fishbone-white of Death,
a statue of a man whose alchemy created gold from blood and bone.
This man of stone had swaggered in that square for a hundred and fifty years.
Her colours now were spent. She hiccuped out a final few beige coughs,
a gentle sneeze that left a cloud of baby-pink dancing in the sun—and then,
with a flap of her wings, she left.

Louise Wilford lives in Yorkshire, UK. Her work has been widely published, most recently in Bandit, English Review, Goats’ Milk, Jaden, Makarelle, POTB, The Fieldstone Review, and Parakeet. In 2020, she won the Arts Quarterly Short Story Prize, the Merefest Poetry Prize, and was awarded a Masters in Creative Writing (Distinction). She is working on a children’s fantasy novel.